The Role of Sentencing Commissions in the Imposition and Enforcement of Release Conditions
8 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2014
Date Written: March 10, 2014
Nationally, a substantial proportion of prison admissions are due to revocations of probation or post-prison release, rather than new convictions and sentences. Sentence revocations have helped fuel U.S. prison growth despite a significant decline in crime across the nation. The process for deciding who is revoked and who is not is a discretionary one that in most jurisdictions is wholly unguided by law or policy. As a result, decisions are often made haphazardly, and without regard to risk the offender poses to the community. Although many states now realize that the legal and policy problems surrounding sentence revocations are urgent and require new thinking and new solutions, there are few successful innovations upon which to build. Three changes could dramatically reduce prison admissions and incarceration rates: substituting short jail terms and day fines for probationary supervision; avoiding release conditions that aren't essential to public safety; and reducing the length of time offenders are subject to conditional release (and thus, to revocation). State sentencing commissions are well-positioned to promote these reforms, and to offer judges and correctional decision makers more guidance on the principles that should govern their revocation decisions. Doing so would conserve community supervision resources for the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders, lessen the need for costly and often counter-productive revocation sanctions, and improve the quality of decision making at the time of sentencing and throughout the execution of the sentence.
Keywords: sentencing, sentencing commission, probation, supervised release, revocation, parole, community supervision, sentencing guidelines
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation